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Icing On The Cake

Find out more about enrichment for

Jericho students on February 26

Find out more about enrichment for Jericho students on Feb. 26By most commonly used criteria for evaluating school districts, Jericho is at the top of the heap; Jericho High School is frequently listed as one of the best in the nation, and there are fun and educational programs available for students on practically any subject. However, no school district has everything, and for the past several years, that’s where the Jericho Educational Fund (JEF) has come in.

“Our goal was to do something really good for the schools—to add something extra that wouldn’t necessarily be in the budget,” said Jess Rudolph, a parent (and JHS graduate) who revitalized the program in 2006.

That “something extra” has added up to a pretty impressive list of accomplishments over the years. JEF has provided funds to restore the high school’s Little Theater, bought scoreboards for the athletic fields, provided iPads to reading teachers for use with children with reading challenges, organized a student film festival, and much more. In addition, through the awarding of grants to teachers with a vision, JEF has allowed for the creation of unique programs like the Jackson Elementary School Community Garden.

One of the most memorable JEF projects involved setting up a coffee shop at the high school. The store, part of a life skills program for students with special needs, taught kids who normally didn’t get to be part of such programs all kinds of new skills. Students learned about purchasing, serving customers, and all about how to run a business.

“When they opened up, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” remembered Rudolph.

However, in the age of budget cuts, priorities can change. Instead of adding something completely new and different, JEF may become more focused on maintaining the same level of enrichment students currently have.

“It’s kind of like, before, you went to buy a cake and you said ‘I want extra icing.’ Now, guess what: the cake doesn’t come with icing anymore,” explained Melissa Gerber, another JEF organizer.

While the leaders at JEF were clear that they don’t see the organization’s role as replacing critical programs, the fact remains that community fundraising and organization to help provide for students may be more important going forward than it has been in years past.

“We’re not going to be taking over the math department,” said Rudolph, “but we may be able to alleviate some of the cuts.”

“What we do is going to be more important now than ever before,” agreed Alana Sabeson.

In addition to going through something of a change in priorities, the program is also going through a change in leadership, with Gerber and fellow mom Sabeson taking the reins; Rudolf will likely stay on JEF in an advisory capacity. Now, the challenge is to bring new community members into the program who are excited about providing something more for the children, and ramp up fundraising efforts.

Gerber and Sabeson were both clear that they see holding bake sales and other traditional PTA fundraising as important and necessary, but JEF represents another way to contribute to the district. For Gerber, a working mom who admits she’s often pressed for time, contributing to JEF means she can do things that could potentially help every child in the district.

“I don’t want to sell pretzels for ten cents; I’d rather go bigger and do more for the community,” says Gerber.

Other parents, who perhaps aren’t available for morning PTA meetings, may feel similarly (and JEF meets at night). In fact, organizers stress, everyone is welcome—moms, dads, retirees, friends, and so on. While they are obviously looking for some go-getters to help do some of the heavy lifting, Gerber and Sabeson point out that even those with little free time to spare are welcome.

“Work can be divided up, and anything can be done,” said Gerber.

People can find out more about JEF at an informational meeting on 7:30 on Feb. 26 in the Jericho High School Library. JEF organizers were hesitant to share ideas for new enrichment projects (since everything must be approved by district administration, which JEF works with very closely), but those who attend the meeting will likely get a sneak peek at what’s on the horizon.